The Adam Sandler formula clicks in ‘Just Go With It’

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Friday, February 11, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

The title of the new Adam Sandler vehicle might be his plea to movie reviewers, who tend to be scathing in their kneejerk reactions to his pictures.

“Just Go with It,” this one’s called.

And reviewers could use a little nudge, because Sandler continues to test expectations. Yes, he delivers the poo-poo jokes and groin-punches as a regular part of his projects, and sometimes (as with last year’s tiresome “Grown Ups”) the pudding doesn’t gel.

But just as often his crazy stuff clicks. For at least 75 percent of its running time, “Just Go with It” works-the sophomoric humor is balanced by an overall sweetness and a loosey-goosey affection for letting comic actors stretch out and play.

Some credit goes to the original material. This movie is based on “Cactus Flower,” the 1969 comedy that won Goldie Hawn an Oscar for best supporting actress.

The plot is a contrived but durable sitcom set-up. A playboy plastic surgeon (that’s Sandler) has spent years nursing a broken heart by keeping things shallow. He’s finally been smitten for real, by a much younger woman (Brooklyn Decker).

For a variety of reasons too labored to explain here, he must have his longtime medical assistant (Jennifer Aniston) pretend to be his ex-wife, and her two kids pretend to be their children. And they must do this during a “family” trip to Hawaii, all for the benefit of his new girlfriend.

You can see what’s developing, and the movie’s job is to communicate the idea that Sandler and Aniston are really meant for each other. In their joshing style and genuinely appealing chemistry, they succeed.

Give Dennis Dugan, one of Sandler’s stable of directors, credit, too.

While just as visually sloppy as usual, Dugan and Sandler create a zone where comedians can actually create spontaneous moments, and where seemingly improvised lines of dialogue become goofy running gags.

Nick Swardson, another Sandler regular, carries much of the lowbrow humor, and even the two child actors (Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck) are allowed to have extended comic riffs.

Midway through the picture, we meet a dreadful couple whose arrival we’ve been prepared for. We probably weren’t prepared for them to be played by Nicole Kidman and Dave Matthews, yet the oddball casting pays off.

Look, this movie doesn’t always hit the groove, and the ration of dumb humor remains high. But the hang-loose mood is appealing, especially in an age when much movie comedy feels canned. As a phrase, “Just Go with It” isn’t the most rigorous critical position, but sometimes it’s the right way to take comedy.

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